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Manning on My Mind

by MISSY BEATTIE

I sent friend David a song, Joan Osborne’s “One of Us,” and he, now, sings it while riding his bike.  This morning when I ran, the lyrics cycled in my mind.  “What if God were once of us, just a slob like one of us?” Of course, this generated an oppositional image—of the current crusade sweeping our country—you know, Rick Santorum, the self-appointed, elitist god, and his mission to “save” us from Satan’s gracelessness.

Throughout, though, an impression of Bradley Manning continued to dominate and has since I sat near him at his arraignment.

On Tuesdays, I go to class.  “Memoir Writing” and, despite a son’s warning that it would be too conservative for me, I added “Great Decisions,” wondering if it really should be titled “Disastrous Choices.” First week we introduced ourselves, telling who, why, what.  I said I might not continue.  But I attended the second with my mind open to the opinions of all who sat around the table. One of my classmates said “illegal aliens” as he voiced his perspective.

“I think you bring so much experience and knowledge to us,” I told him.  “But I object to the term “illegal aliens. Could you say undocumented workers, instead?”  He agreed.

At the end of the session, another man asked, “Is everybody registered to vote?”  Hands shot up enthusiastically.  All but mine, that is.  I raised an arm, but listlessly.  He, then, said, “Everybody going to vote?”

“I’m not.”

“We have to vote, even if it’s for the lesser of two evils,” he said.

“I can’t.  I just can’t participate.  “The lesser of two evils is still evil.” I said these words that have become hackneyed.  He shook his head.

During lunch, I sat among a group of students.  And, then, I mingled.  Someone asked if I’d had a good week.  Told the person I’d been to the arraignment of Bradley Manning.  This elicited a blank.  So, I seized the opportunity to educate.

And that’s the problem.  Manning’s selfless contribution and dilemma aren’t in the consciousness or weighing on the consciences of the masses—even some who proactively continue an interest in learning by enrolling in courses.

On the way home, I thought of evil, this term that made me feel like vomiting when George Bush used it so often.  And, now, we’re inflicted with the sanctimonious Santorum who, like Bush, believes he is god’s messenger.

Back to Bradley Manning. I think of decisions, the paths we take that define our lives.  Manning exposed not some isolated war crime but what is commonplace during invasion and occupation.  Especially since our military men and women are taught that the people on whom we unleash carnage are subhuman.  Manning acted as he did because he is the antithesis of evil.  Yet our government, intent on perpetuating deception, condemns his righteousness.

Let us not reside in laziness while Manning, the sacrificial lamb, is slaughtered by vilification—22 counts, including aiding the enemy.

The enemy. This word conjures up that other one, again—evil.  The greater of two. The lesser of two.

Meanwhile, Manning, a pale, young god, just an ordinary slob, Christ-like, and standing before judgment, is confined and has been, over 600 days.  For acting on principle. I see him, bearing the cross, to which he may be nailed.  We can try to mitigate his suffering by not forgetting him.

Missy Beattie is obsessing on Bradley Manning.  She can be reached at: missybeat@gmail.com.   

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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